I spend a lot of time thinking – and communicating – about how candidates interact with companies.  From the cover letter, resume, interviewing.  All of it matters, and it’s what I live with as a corporate recruiter (and, lived with as an agency recruiter) on a regular basis.

All that said, actually getting to the point where you’re actually interacting with the company matters hugely.  With the pretty insidious growth of cloud computing, the game has changed significantly.  It’s a good idea to understand how, and how to use these changes to your advantage.

So, let’s start by understanding what this “cloud” thing is.  According to Tim O’Reilly (somebody a lot smarter than me, and a guy who’s been in the middle – some might say a chief instigator of – this paradigm shift), you can look at the cloud as having 3 distinct levels.   I’m going to do my layman’s best to translate

  1. Utility Computing: Think of this as a way for companies to rent computational power from a network, as opposed to building an infrastructure of computers at high cost.  SETI@home is an example of this being done non-commercially. albeit they use personal computers of volunteers, and don’t rent the space out to clients.  But, you get the idea (plus, I get to link to SETI, which thrills me for some dumb reason).
  2. Platform as a Service: Best analogy I can come up with – well, John Kelley could come up with for me – is to think of Toyota’s Scion line of cars.  You can buy the thing as is, and drive it. You can buy one, and then select any number of options Scion’s pre-built to trick it out; you can buy it, and then go to someone else to make specialized aftermarket add-ons for it; you can set up a machine shop in your garage, and make you own additions.  It’s all up to you how much you want to customize.  The key is that the base Scion is the platform, and you can adapt it to the Nth degree.
  3. Cloud Based End-User Applications: This is where you and I come in.  You’ve likely been interacting with the cloud for years.   Anytime you use Web-based e-mail, post photos through a service like Flickr, you’re interacting with the cloud (just think – you’re a geek, and didn’t know it).

Sooooo… why am I talking about this?  First, because it’s pretty damned cool.  We spent most of our evolution as a species interacting with each other on a super-regular basis, around the campfire, warning each other about a snake/ bear/ angy beaver (trust me, I’ve had a run-in, and those teeth look awful big when they’re in your face), building a cathedral, etc.  Then, along came radio & TV – communication became one sided, and forced.  Discussion was discouraged (“shhhh! – don’t talk while the movie’s playing”).   Now, with social media & the cloud, we’re communicating again – frankly, we’re hyper-communicating.  Innovation accelerates as ideas move back and forth quickly, people remember how to write again (interesting how Twitter has a character constraint, much like form-driven poems have specific constraints), etc.

Second, because it’s a medium you can exploit in your search.  There are a ton of resources out there – hey, it’s a cloud.  They get big.  Everything from tools to manage your search (JibberJobber) to tools that connect you with people who can advance your career (Climber) to places where you can view salaries posted anonomously by a company’s employees (Glassdoor).  I’m not going to run through all of them, but what I’d like to suggest is a framework and/ or mindset you can use to exploit the power of all these new resources.

First: Forget about the old job boards.  Monster’s trying to shift into a more interactive medium, and might make it work (I hope so for the local economy here in MA, but I’m not holding my breath – the bean counters are in charge over there, and that never bodes well).  If you’re going to look for leads on jobs, use Indeed, SimplyHired, etc. These job aggregaters scrape the Web for any job posting they can find, and put them in one bucket, along with a handy bunch of research tools.  Better than the big boards, becasue they have every job out there, and companies don’t have to pay to post (the boards only have a slice of what’s open).

Second: Use social media to figure out who to talk to at a company.  I’m going to shamelessly plug ZoomInfo as a reasearch tool here – find a job and/ or company you think is interesting, use Zoom to figure out who the manager for that department is (and/ or their HR head, Recruiting Manager, etc), and approach them directly.

Third: The approach.  Here’s where it gets pretty frickin’ cool.  Think of this: You can send your resume into a blind e-mail or application box, and pray.  Or, you can start interacting with the company at a social level (remember, all a company is is a bunch of people working toward a common goal – the key is the people bit, and people are social).  Find people there – use ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, etc.  Hell, use Facebook & Twitter’s search capabilities to find folks at the company.  Friend ’em, follow ’em, etc.  Go to Meetup, and find a local interest group – recruiters scour those sites for candidates.  Go to Slideshare, and search for people from companies you’re trying to get into – if you want an engineering job at, say, Cisco, look for a slideshow by somebody with those characteristics.  E-mail them, tell them how much you loved the presentation, and could you please chat about opportunities sometime.

Here’s a live example: random guy adds me on Twitter.  I see that somebody’s following me – and, yeah, it’s weird that that’s suddenly a good thing – check out their Twitter profile, and click on the link they’ve added to learn more about them.  I get to their LinkedIn page, and see that they’re a local software engineer.  I think to myself: “self, there’s a local software engineer.  Not a dead-on fit for the job we have open, but close. Let’s see what he does if I do this” (and by this, I mean write a quick tweet that we’re looking for software engineers, and add a link to our career site).  He clicks on said link, sees the site, and then takes a look at my ZoomInfo profile.  He follows me onto LinkedIn & Facebook, and sees that we have a few common connections.  He reaches out to one – a guy he’s known since the 3rd grade – and it turns out that guy is my brother-in-law.  He asks him to make an intro.  Chris does this via Facebook.  I give him a ring, and the game’s afoot (this all happened yesterday, in the space of a couple of hours: follow, click, couple more clicks, quick note to Chris, intro, et voile: interview).  Bear in mind: I wasn’t sure the guy was a dead on fit, and I have several hundred applicants for these software engineering jobs. But, he found a way to reach me.  And it worked.

I could go on – oh, trust me, I could go on, and on, and on… but, my fingers hurt, so I think I’m done with the typing.  Luckily for me, there’s a lot more out there on this topic, most (well, all) of it written better than this.  Here’s a few places I suggest you clickety-click, tout de suite:

70+ Tools for Job Hunting

Web 2.0 Tactics for Successful Job Hunting

reCareered – Top 50 Web 2.0 Tools for Job Seekers